The View from Northern Ireland: Many farmers will now be completing their second cut silage, which is an appropriate time to assess how their fodder supplies match up to the likely requirement for the forthcoming winter.
Maurice Hurst, who runs a dairy herd of 130 pedigree Holstein cows and 100 replacement heifers on his farm at Aghavea near Brookeborough in Co Fermanagh, has just completed his second cut of silage. He estimates that he has achieved his target of 2000 tonnes of silage and does not plan to take a third cut. Last year due to the wet weather the dairy herd was housed at night and buffer fed silage right through the grazing season. Maurice has continued this system as he believes it facilitates a higher stocking rate and increased milk yields.
Last winter Maurice purchased silage to supplement his own supply. To avoid any potential shortage this year he rented an additional 10 hectares (25 acres) which was used mainly for a later first cut of silage. This was ensiled separately and will be used specifically for feeding dry cows.
As well as making high quality silage, Maurice is also committed to the provision of good quality grazing for his dairy herd. Silage aftermaths were slurried and received 34kg/ha (27 units/acre) of nitrogen fertiliser after the second cut. They will soon be available for grazing and will allow 8 hectares (20 acres) of cow paddocks to be reseeded before the end of this month, weather permitting. Ploughing is carried out to relieve topsoil compaction, improve drainage and allow levelling of the ground. The grasseed mixture will contain late perennial ryegrasses and white clover. Grazing paddocks are still receiving 37 kg/ ha (30 units/acre) of nitrogen fertiliser and Maurice is hoping to provide daytime grazing for the milking cows until the end of October.
All farmers should now complete a fodder budget similar to what has taken place on the Hurst farm. Information is available from your local CAFRE Development Adviser or on the DARD website to help you calculate the supply and demand for fodder on your farm.
Maurice recently enjoyed a family holiday in New Zealand when he had the opportunity to visit a number of dairy farms. He said it was reassuring to find out that dairy farmers there also have to cope with difficult weather conditions and milk price volatility.